The first rule of Math Club is you can only talk about it in symbols and notation

I could give a flying f about little league. I care about Robotics and Math club.

First impressions of Math Clubs.
A math class is like a contract. “Student, learn this algorithm for problems of this type and you will get an A.” Importantly, in math class, everyone in theory can get an A. Math club looks like a math class with a different agreement, “Participants, train on problems of increasing difficulty. You will get a test where the last problems are so hard, no one will solve them. This will minimize the chance of ties and the participants will get fame and glory based on their rank, either on a per team basis or a per participant basis”  But otherwise, it looks like a math class.

Second impression of Math Clubs.It looks like a sport.  In sports, everyone can run. Not everyone can run fast. Not everyone can figure out that only about 10 or so of the numbers from 1 to 100 can be written as a non-terminating decimal. Some not at all. So a fair sport in the math sense is like mental math– everyone can do arithmetic, some can do it faster or more accurately that others.  A similar analogy can be made with spelling bees- everyone can spell something, some can spell more words, the winning word is still something that in theory any participant could do. I admit, I haven’t completely rigorously worked out how a speed arithmetic test is like running, but solving increasingly difficult “puzzle” problems isn’t.

Third impression of Math Clubs.It is a game among players and team where there the actions of the other teams do not figure much into your decisions about how you play the game.

Grades 0-5
Arithmetic Club. I have no idea if these exist. If they did, they should be kind of like spelling bees, with round 1 mental math, round 2 calculator math and round 3 historical devices (e.g. abacus)
Kumon. Worksheets with a focus on speed and arithmetic.

[Arithmetic, Pre-calc]
[Typing!]
[Scratch]

Grades 4- 8
Math Olimpiad. The contest for the youngest participants, 4th grade. http://www.moems.org/contests.htm

Grades 6-12
Math Club. Works like a study group, solving problems to practice
e.g. National Math Club/MathCounts
Math Contests. Big sit down tests.
e.g. AMC 8, AMC 10
Mu Alpha Theta National Convention, Log1

Math League- http://www.mathleague.com/

[Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Pre-Calc] — Why so late?
[Python, Ruby, Javascript]

Grades 9-12
Robotics Club. Building robots and programming them in C++ and Java.

[Geometry, Calculus, Discrete Mathematics]

My Take Away from Screen Time

TV can either be bad or good or neutral, depending on a lot of factors. 

1) Kids need age appropriate TV.  Signs of age appropriateness: the kid pays attention and shows signs of understanding.

2) Kids need a model for watching TV. If you don’t watch seriously, the kid also will watch with half of their attention.

3) Foreground TV can be okay, but background TV interferes with all sorts of important activities, particularly play, sleep, language learning.

4) Passive TV is lousy for language learning. 

5) Parents watching with children and pausing the TV for commentary is better than kids watching it just by themselves.

6) Dora the Explorer, Sesame Street Post-2002,  Elmo, Mister Roger’s Neighborhoood, Dragon Tales, have positive

7) Age appropriate means age appropriate within one year. This is complicated by the fact that kids can mature faster than others (but not by mutliple years)

8) Educational TV, e.g. science, will be appropriate for a single grade, not a range of grades. 

9) Adult TV, violent TV and TV that shows kids fighting, bullying, or using relationship aggression (even if it is to illustrate how *not* to behave) leads to kids copying that behavior, especially for the youngest viewers.

10) TV may have a role in children that are sick (e.g. with flu) or that have profound issues, like autism.  In the case of kids in pain, the TV acts like anathesia. In the case of autism, shows like Thomas the Engine can help kids recognize facial expressions.  Imho, this doesn’t really change issues 1 – 9, regarding always on & background TV.

11) On demand TV is better than broadcast TV.

12) Kids are lousy at realizing what is advertising. They are lousy and getting the “moral of a story”. They are lousy at dealing with stories that jump around with flash backs and flash fowards. 

Getting ready for baby

What a huge undertaking! I’m in the mood for lists, so I’m going to list some of the projects I’ve started for the baby project:

Reading baby books. There are so many of them. The best so far have been about how to raise bilingual kids, the v*gan pregnancy book, and the book about TV and kids age 0-5. I’m a low consumer of TV and a TV sceptic. Interestingly, according to the research, both the pro and anti TV camps are correct, depending on the exact age and TV program– if it is the wrong TV program, it is a waste of the kids time and steals time from valuable developmental activities. If the TV isn’t too easy or too hard to understand, i.e. is appropriate to the kid exact age and development, then kids can learn from TV, or at least don’t suffer any harm worse than any other activity that a kid could be doing when the parent is *necessarily* occupied with other things. My enormous commute and my kindle have been very handy for this project.

Cooking. Babies are made out of good food. It’s a complicated process, ask your parents or your chef. I’m rumaging through vegan cookbooks because I’m shocked at how many of my vegetarian cookbooks are dependent on dairy and eggs.

Language Learning. I’m cramming ASL signs as fast as I can. I think I’m up to 250 words that I know pretty well and I can do English word order sign for a few sentences now. I’m continuing to study Icelandic, but I really should be switching over to French. The plan is to teach baby Tagalog, French and English (with ASL signing along with the English), and I’ll be responsible for the French. I figure it will be a 15 year project and baby will eventually speak French at a very good 2nd language level, not at a native level.

Career Planning. I want my career to be family friendly for the next five years. I remember a friend in high school who was supposed to give a speech in speech class on the topic of working moms. He liked the idea of working moms because it gave him the freedom and independence to pursue his hobbies, mainly skateboarding. But for ages 0-5, kids want their parents home, not at the office or commuting there and back.

Selling stuff online if you are a kid

So I tell my son he should sell stuff online and earn some cash, rather than me re-selling his video games, books and music for him.  Constraint one: I don’t want to give him my financial account passwords or otherwise link my accounts to his seller accounts.  My son is 14.

1) Most online banks won’t let you open an account until about age 16, or they will only let you open a savings account.

2) Paypal will let a child open an account, but it must be linked to a checking or credit card account before you can do anything with it. (See #1) Paypal will let you open a subaccount of an adult account,  but this subaccount appears to be unable to pay ebay fees.

3) Half.com will not pay you unless you can accept ACH payments, presumably via checking account and doesn’t accept paypal.

4) Amazon.com auctions will not accept paypal for paying fees or receiving payment.

5) Things like visa BUXX appear to be only for making payments.  I haven’t check to see if BUXX cards can be used for paying fees on ebay, amazon or half. BUXX certainly can’t be used to receive payment.

So it looks like to keep my account separate from my sons, I need to set up under my name, address, etc, an entirely new checking account, paypal account, ebay account, amazon account, and half.com account and then give the logon credentials for those to my son.  What a pile of work!  Then in 2 or 4 years, I have to shut all these accounts down and trasfer them to accounts set up in my son’s name!

Not the best weekend

Meetup travails. I missed a meetup that I’m the group organizer for.  Everything that could go wrong did- I didn’t show, the person who suggested the time and place didn’t show, only one showed, everyone else that could have shown, as far as I know, didn’t show.  I sent an apology to the one person who did show and they took offense at the content of my apology.  So much for attempts at diplomacy.  Makes me want to end my two newest meetup groups and focus on the ones I have going already.

Parenting. My son made his mom blow her top when she visits to pick him up.  He’s got a tin ear for diplomacy.  When someone is yelling at you for whining about how rough life is at Dad’s place, responding with additional complains is not a good idea.  And his mom, who doesn’t generally let him play computer games at all, is not going to be sympathetic to my son’s complain that I am too restrictive about how much time he spends playing games.   The other popular arguments are food (my son wants to eat competitively, but Dad says it’s better for the health to eat at meal time, not just because someone else is eating), and walking speed, which my son may or may not have a point.  It just that if a child harps on an issue for long, all of a sudden you don’t want to ever give in on it lest he move on to another issue where he thinks he might be able to use the same technique.

I keep trotting out my argument that when he gives up on trying to keep in emotions in check, people will stop listening to the content of his message, “I want this, I want that” and switch to listening only to the method of communication, “screaming + wild claims + crying + insults + whining” etc.  Anyhow, I can’t tell if he gets it or if he does, it’s like he’s incapable of using any understanding about the dynamics of dealing with people.

Which isn’t to say he was a monster over the weekend, it was pretty typical behavior mixed in with just plain bad behavior.  You’d think the rational child wouldn’t engage if bad behavior if they could clearly see that it doesn’t get them what they want and co-operation with the powers that be will get them a lot further.

Computers as a discouraging hobby. My home brew computer no longer boots.  The boot drive was too small.  Never, never, never use a 20GB drive as a boot drive, it needs to be at least double that.  I tried to copy it onto another drive.  The windows operating system provides no help for such a scenario, so it is very tricky and time consuming.  Is drive cloning an unimaginable scenario? Well, given how often Microsoft’s own documentation says “back everything up”, you’d think drive cloning would be a routine activity.  Now my machine can see a drive is attached, but will not boot to any operating system on any drive I attach.  In fact, the  “black screen of the deadly blinking underscore” is the same behavior you get when you try to boot with no drive attached at all!  So that took away about half a day of time I could have spent doing something of more social value.

News: Computer Camp @ Home

Arlington has an interesting summer camp program. What they do is make the school facilities available to private companies, who run summer camps with which are nearly impossible to sign up for an entire summer. So every year, I have a few weeks of gaps in the summer time coverage. Last year, I spent an absurd amount of money on a private program, which cost a lot, my son hated and I don’t think he got much out of it.

This year, I’m staying home half days and teaching programming. So far we have implemented a variation on Hammurabi and today we are half way through implementing a simulation.